Position of Influence
Having been a Purdue fan from the time he could walk and receiving both his undergraduate degree and his MBA from Purdue, Jon Ferency brings natural enthusiasm to his position of building long-term relationships between Krannert’s current students and its alumni.
Ferency (BS Sci ’90, MBA ’06) began bridging this gap in August 2009 as director of alumni relations for the Krannert School. With networking initiatives including mentoring, job shadowing, career treks, LinkedIn, and other innovations, Ferency wants alumni to know that even in these financially trying times, they can still give back to their alma mater.
"Time is just as valuable as money in this respect," he says. "Financial support is essential to our school’s long-term mission, of course, but it doesn’t necessarily help students in the short term to get a job or increase their skill sets. But if you come back to speak in their classes, do mock interviews, help arrange internships, or offer mentoring, that really adds value to their education."
According to Ferency, LinkedIn has proved to be an ideal avenue for connecting Krannert graduates in cities across the globe, from Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Seattle, and New York to Jamaica, London, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Not only do these city groups provide alumni the opportunity to network, socialize, and carry on Boilermaker traditions, they also make it much easier to offer job shadowing and career trek opportunities to students.
Career treks, which have been successful at many other top institutions, consist of multiple companies in one city that host students for a few hours or an entire day. Dubbed Doing Business in the U.S., Krannert’s program was conceived by Benjamin Crockett (MBA ’11) and Jill Mullens, assistant director of Graduate Career Services.
Accommodating students on such visits does not require alumni to travel, making the events an uncomplicated way to give back. The trips are currently being organized only for graduate students, but Ferency plans to include undergraduates in the near future.
"Alumni are jumping up and down to help," Ferency says. "They’re all saying, ‘What can I do? Send them my way!’ They’re excited to show off their companies and their cities."
Ferency has adopted another initiative that incorporates LinkedIn called State Street to Wall Street. Every day, he scans The Wall Street Journal for a positive article, searches for Purdue alumni from the featured company, and sends an e-mail about Krannert’s contributions to LinkedIn groups in their area. "It’s just another way to reach out to some alumni that we haven’t had contact with and hopefully get them interested," he says.
According to Ferency, the goal of these and other initiatives such as the newly created Alumni in Residence program is to build a culture of involvement and professional development through non-financial endeavors.
"The stronger we make the students, the stronger they make the school name," he says. "And the stronger the school name, the more value we add to the students. It’s a win-win situation."
–– Mackenzie Greenwell
As a student, Mary Slater (BSM ’03, MBA ’05) made it a point to connect with everyone around her — classmates, professors, staff, and alumni. When she completed her studies, she had earned not only a master’s degree in business, but also an unofficial second degree in networking, which now forms the basis of her second job.
Slater’s primary job is as a project manager for Shell Lubricants Supply Chain, where she works to introduce new products and packaging in the North American lubricants market and is leading efforts to revolutionize the way bulk packaging is handled in the industry. Her second job is running Shell’s Purdue campus recruiting team and the related sideline of staying engaged with Krannert’s alumni groups.
"I knew that by reaching out and getting to know people, I was learning from their experiences and enhancing my own education," Slater says. "I was able to get to know a number of my classmates and professors very well. I always wanted to get to know more of the alumni, so when I graduated, I made a conscious decision to stay engaged with Krannert students."
To stay connected with Purdue, Slater founded the Houston chapter of the Krannert School of Management Alumni Groups. Among the events hosted by the groups are the World MBA Tour, in which alumni talk to prospective students, faculty speakers, and engagement with students through mentoring, networking, and functional skill-building activities.
"I have found that the students today are generally very genuine in their desire to improve not only their functional skills, but their relationship and professional engagement skills," Slater says. "They strongly desire interaction with alumni to help them learn from their experiences –– both good and bad, so that they can continue to build the reputation of Krannert as they become alumni."
For Slater, whose previous assignments included roles in Shell Chemicals as a senior sales executive for the solvents business and as a global business analyst for its Base Chemicals business, being a Krannert graduate is serious business.
"What I can do is make sure that I help current students understand how to build their network, what appropriate interaction with alumni and other professionals looks like, and know how to leverage mentoring relationships," she says. "This involves coaching, being willing and available, and having the desire to see Krannert grads continue to excel."
–– Mackenzie Greenwell
Don MacKay & Rich Trojan
Above and Beyond
Don MacKay (BSIM ’75) and Rich Trojan (BSIM ’93) are among numerous Krannert alumni who annually return to campus to help students secure internships and employment, but their efforts in recent years set them apart.
MacKay, director of business integration for Sears Holdings’ Home Services Group, has been an active contributor to the School of Management Employers Forum (SMEF) for more than five years. In addition to manning a booth at SMEF’s fall and spring career fairs, MacKay and other representatives from Sears Holdings participate in company presentations, resume critiques, and interview sessions held in conjunction with the four-day event.
"Don’s main role at Sears isn’t recruiting, but his involvement has moved the company much higher on our list of top hirers," says Erik Props, coordinator of undergraduate career services for Krannert. "This year, Sears also provided sponsorship of messenger-type bags for our students as they transitioned into the upper division. We had been looking for a company to jump on board, and Don helped make it happen."
"I think that working with students is an important part of being an alumni," says MacKay. "They like to see the ‘Purdue Alumni’ buttons on recruiters at the fair because it gives them an icebreaker to start a conversation. And being a Krannert graduate myself, I can relate directly to students’ coursework to help zero in on their particular career interests."
Props also cites Rich Trojan, vice president of human resources at Videojet Technologies. Trojan (pictured above) has returned to Krannert as a recruiter since he began his professional career in 1993, first with Caterpillar and Newell Rubbermaid, and now with Danaher Corporation, Videojet’s parent company. He also speaks to students in Props’ Career Development (MGMT 301) course each year before SMEF’s career fair.
"It’s a way I can give back to the University that helped get me where I am today," says Trojan. "Management 301 was the class that convinced me to apply for a summer internship at Caterpillar and launched my business career. The recruiter who later convinced me to work at Danaher was also a Purdue alumnus, which was the only reason I took the interview. Boilermaker pride is very strong."
Trojan stays connected to Krannert students even when he’s not at Purdue as a recruiter. "I look over resumes of students during the year who I met during my time on campus. Others have contacted me with career advice on which job to take even if Danaher is not in the running for their services. Someone took a chance on me, and I feel that giving my time back to students helps repay that debt."
–– Eric Nelson
Krannert alumna Susan Butler (BSIM ’65, HDR ’99) is no stranger to being first and blazing trails.
She became Arthur Andersen & Co.’s first professional female employee in 1965. Fourteen years later, Butler rose to become the first female partner of Andersen Consulting, now known as Accenture.
A nationally known author and founder and CEO of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders, she is adding to her pioneering profile as the first presenter in Krannert’s new Alumni in Residence program.
Building off the familiar Executive in Residence template, Krannert’s program introduces the value-added dimension of inviting accomplished alumni such as Butler to offer students a Krannert-customized educational experience.
"This program will allow the students of Krannert to interact with our school’s outstanding alumni," says Jon Ferency, director of Krannert alumni relations. He conceived the idea for the program with Joy Dietz, director of Professional Master’s Programs, and Roger Stewart, director of Graduate Career Services and a visiting instructor of management.
"We are so proud of all these individuals who were once roaming the halls of the Krannert and Rawls buildings that we decided to propose the alumni-in-residence idea," says Ferency. "Our alumni have many years of experience leading companies and organizations — just the skill set needed to counsel management students."
Under any circumstance, Susan Butler would have been an obvious first choice for initiating the program. In addition to her impressive professional and academic credentials, the Arizona-based Butler maintains close ties to Purdue, spending at least one week each month on the West Lafayette campus in a variety of speaking, mentoring, and advising roles.
And, true to form, the forward-thinking Krannert alumna volunteered to take the new program out for a test drive. For Butler, it’s perfectly aligned with her "Giving Forward" philosophy, her passion for empowering students, and her love for Krannert and Purdue. "I am fortunate enough to be able to give to future generations because of what I was able to accomplish thanks to my Purdue and Krannert experience," she says.
The program offered Butler something, too — a chance to further create a culture of involvement and to offer students a real-world, experiential learning opportunity. "Working with the students is what I like best," she explains.
Ferency and students were equally delighted when Butler stepped forward to help launch the initiative. "We all thought it would be a great idea," he says.
Marita Rondot, a senior management major from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the president of Krannert Women in Business, attended Butler’s Alumni in Residence debut in February. "The program sought out the executive members in Women in Business to give us resources, knowledge, and advice so that we could further improve our club," she says.
"Susan Butler was especially phenomenal," adds Rondot. "She inspired us to grow and suggested ways to better the Women in Business annual conference. We were so humbled by the invitation to talk to such a prestigious and successful woman."
Eric Kennedy, vice president of alumni affairs for the Krannert Graduate Student Association (KGSA), also welcomed the opportunity to interact with Butler.
"It’s been great to have the opportunity to bounce ideas off someone with her level of experience," says Kennedy. "She’s a very dynamic and open person, which makes her perfect for this program. She provided us with ideas on how to best approach alumni and involve them in the student experience."
Like any start-up venture, the program is a work in progress with ample opportunities for growth and development. In its first iteration, the program is not merely a class or a module or seminar, but is open-ended. Krannert clubs and organizations have been the easiest and most efficient way to get the word out to students, but any Krannert graduate or undergraduate student can set up appointments for individual counseling.
Perhaps the most important time that students will have with resident alumni will be during those personal meetings. Students who sign up can discuss career goals, aspirations, class sequences for particular careers, and more.
Whether the relationships last a module, a year, or a career, alumni like Butler who give back to the next generation of Krannert success stories will make the program a success, says Ferency.
"Having successful alumni who are willing to give back to the school allowed us to create something for our students that is intended to last well into the future," he says. "This is just the beginning."
–– Grant Flora
GET INVOLVED. To join one of the school’s regional alumni groups, logon to LinkedIn.com and search for Krannert under the ‘Groups’ menu. For information on participating in other alumni initiatives, contact Jon Ferency at email@example.com.